The concept of “fast fashion” is a common guilty pleasure of most consumers, especially when it comes to broke college students. Not only are these massive chain stores extremely accessible and affordable, but they are also typically stylish as well. Fast fashion thrives off of trends that last only a season or two, which is typically the exact amount of time it takes until these clothes start falling apart. Within a month or two, you’ll get a rip here, a missing button there, and before you know it, the bright and shiny garment that you once coveted so much is in shreds – torn up beyond repair.
What the average consumer fails to realize is that while they are saving their money in the moment by purchasing a pair of jeans for $9.99, they are contributing to the vicious cycle of the deadly working conditions that exist in order to piece together these short-lived fads.
Last April, what was considered the most deadly garment fashion disaster in history occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh where 2,500 workers were injured and more than 1,000 workers were killed. As if that incident was not bad enough, in early October a fire broke out in a knitting factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, where seven were killed and dozens were injured. These are the same types of factories where many popular fast fashion companies, such as Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Top Shop, and many more have their clothing produced.
Last month, the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced an initiative to improve the country’s factories conditions. It joins together two other safety programs, the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety” which includes 20 American retailers including Gap and Nordstrom, as well as the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety”, which has been signed by over 100 corporations, including H&M and Primark. While it is a fantastic start to a potentially amazing change in the industry, there are many who worry that with such a widespread array of corporations, there will be issues with compliance.
However, there are many other routes you can go as far as finding affordable clothes that are still stylish. Thrift stores and resale shops usually sell timeless fashionable choices that are often still in very good condition and will last you way longer than whatever you would purchase at the mall. If you have the spare time, you can also do your research in order to find companies who produce “clean clothes” who are known to have positive working conditions. Websites like the Clean Clothes Campaign offer tips on how to find popular brands and retailers who are doing more to improve workers’ rights.
We all fall into this trap: going to our favorite store and picking out a new outfit that is fantastically affordable while still being cute. But next time you pick up that gorgeous, “perfectly-priced” sweater, take time to really think about it: is it worth it?